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Ethics in the Marketing of Medical Services

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Ethics in the Marketing of Medical Services
STEPHEN R . LATHAM, J.D., PH.D.

Abstract
This paper deals with the ethics of marketing medical services by physicians, medical groups, hospitals and other mainstream medical caregivers in the United States. It does not deal with pharmaceutical marketing, since that raises a number of special issues, some of them legal and some having to do with the unique culture of pharmaceutical marketing, which really ought to be dealt with separately. Nor does it touch on the little-explored field of marketing alternative and complementary medicine. It begins with a general description of what is included in "the marketing process." It then briefly tours some of the difficulties faced by those who would market medical services ethically, and ends with some conunents on the relevance of professionalism to ethical marketing. Key Words: Professionalism, medical marketing, market competition, health care, product, placement, price, promotion, ethics.

Marketing 101: The Four P's the idea of "marketing" with promotion and advertising. But in fact, "promotion" is only one of the famous "four P's of marketing" taught in most business schools. The first step in any marketing plan is to determine the nature of the Product (or service) one wishes to sell. Next, one determines its Placement, the distribution channels through which the product or service can best be made available to the consumer. Then, one attempts to determine the Price at which the product or service will be both profitable to the seller and attractive to the target consumer—e.g., should this be sold cheaply, as a "loss-leader," or at a steep markup as a luxury item? Finally, one plans the Promotion — where and how to advertise. Each of the four P's raises its own characteristic set of ethical questions. Product raises
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